All posts by Mario Herger

Gotcha! I’m still alive!

What is typically only the reading of judges, police and prosecutors became an unexpected bestseller in 2006. First in Italy and then worldwide, Roberto Saviano’s first book Gomorrha stormed the bestseller lists. In it, the Neapolitan described the workings of the Camorra mafia organization in his hometown from his own experience and with a great deal of research, naming the leaders and perpetrators by their full names.

Because of this attention, he became a target of the mafia and has lived under constant police protection ever since. And it is precisely this, his own threatened and isolated life, that is depicted in the comic strip “Je suis toujours vivant” (“I am still alive”), impressively staged by cartoonist Asaf Hanuka.

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Shoot Ramirez Already!

The mute vacuum cleaner mechanic Jacques Ramirez wants nothing more than to do his job in peace. And he does it very well. For this, he is named employee of the year after years at his company Robotop, shortly before the building blows up along with his boss and the journalists gathered there.

Ramirez has been caught up in his dark family history, which he never wanted to have anything to do with and had taken a completely different path. But a Mexican drug cartel, a cold-blooded killer and the two Thelma & Louise characters Chelsea Tyler and Dakota Smith cross his path and leave a bloody trail. But Jacques Ramirez’s past is not quite so blameless either, and the story complicates.

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A Magazine for the Delicate Male Mind

If you appreciate The New Yorker or The Chicagoan as magazine lovers of the jazz age for their excellent reporting and artistic covers, you will enjoy the two-volume Gentlemind comic album series.

The story is set in the 1940s, where showgirl Gina Navit serves as muse and love interest to aspiring illustrator Arch Parker. Plagued by money troubles, Arch decides to go to Europe to cover the war. Gina, who can’t save herself from admirers, breaks heart and marries wealthy entertainment magnate Powell. When he dies, Gina inherits his estate, including a moribund men’s magazine, which she turns into a success by successfully altering its reports and graphics.

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Dry Cleaning In The Rain

François, a loner, works for a laundry cleaning service as a messenger driver and leads a very unexciting and routine life. His happiest moment of the day is a visit to single mother Maryvonne, who runs a newsstand and to whom François hands in his lottery ticket and buys the newspaper.

He has been playing the same lottery numbers for 17 years, promising to buy Maryvonne and her daughter, who suffers from asthma, an apartment by the sea from his lottery winnings, which he hopes for every week. His routine changes when he has to train a new driver named Alain, who causes him some nerves. Then, when they have to make a delivery to a place outside Paris, François’ whole life tips over in one fell swoop.

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2021: My Year In Books

Already last year I presented a few books I read during the first pandemic year 2020, and in 2021 I could add one more. The pandemic is still here, new variants come and dominate, and that leaves time for reading.

So this year I read 87 non-fiction books, 109 (mostly French) comics, a few picture books, children’s books and lots of magazines. I also acquired about a hundred old Mickey Mouse issues on ebay, which I’m halfway through.

I have the (almost) entire list of comics and books on Librarything, where I’ve been maintaining this content for years.

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The Man Who Loves Comics

How a wacky comic, our French teacher, and a chance find reawakened my comic collecting passion.

In the Floridsdorf district of Vienna, on the eastern side of the Danube, near our apartment at the time was a so-called Gemeindebau, a housing complex built and operated by the city of Vienna in the 1920s that had stores, kindergartens, doctors’ offices and a farmers’ market. Such community buildings were small villages in the city, and as a child these were our places where we gained experience and where our whole world lay.

In the arcades of this municipal building there were business premises, among others a novel exchange store. This has long since ceased to exist, but here is a photo from Google Maps of what it currently looks like.

The Schlingerhof in Vienna’s 21st district, with storefronts in the arcades that housed a novel exchange store in the late 1970s, which I had the privilege of frequenting once a week.

In one of the arcades there was a comic exchange store, and in it I, then still an elementary school student, could exchange 10 old used comic books for 10 new used comic books. For 10 shillings, which at the time was about 1.5 deutschmarks, and according to the conversion rate was equivalent to 71 cents, which adjusted for inflation would be about €1.90 today.

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I Dream of Djinn – An (Erotic) Excursion into the World of Sultans, Goddesses and Maharajas

Anyone who grew up with the television series I Dream of Jeannie is already familiar with the world of genies. In this 1960s series, astronaut Tony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman, found a bottle on a beach that hid the genie (“djinn”) Jeannie, played by Barbara Eden. Her magical powers (and jealousy) kept getting Tony Nelson into trouble.

Almost sixty years later, French scenarist Jean Dufaux and Spanish illustrator Ana Miralles created the comic series Djinn, of which 13 volumes have been published. If I Dream of Jeannie already had a definite erotic undertone in the relationship between Nelson and Jeannie, it becomes much more explicit in this comic series. And even the last names of the protagonists show a reference to the TV series.

There are two interrelated narrative threads in the albums, whose stories take place in three cycles in Turkey, Africa and India. Kim Nelson, who grew up in present-day London, sets out to discover the story of her mother and grandmother, Jade, who is said to have been a djinn. Her magic as a djinn was that she could make women and men fall hopelessly in love with her and give up everything for her, even going to their deaths. For a djinn, however, this means that she herself can never feel love, as much as she wishes to, and thus all relationships inevitably break down.

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Black Burlesque

Great cinema were the film noir in the 50s and 60s, which often helped actors like Alain Delon or Jean Gabin to their fame. Even today, more than half a century later, these films have lost none of their charisma. No wonder this style of film is cited again and again, not only in cinema, but also in comic books like Noir Burlesque by Enrico Marini.

The story, set in 1950s New York, is about the gangster Slick, who commits his robberies with routine and seduces women, but has also attracted plenty of ill will and the envy of other shady and powerful figures in the underworld.

In this first installment, ex-boxer, war veteran, and hardened petty criminal Slick is doing his last heist for his boss when he meets Caprice, a redheaded beauty. As readers quickly discover, there is a backstory between burlesque dancer Caprice and Slick. Years ago, he had gone off to war as a soldier, leaving Caprice behind, who no longer wanted to wait for him and succumbed to the wooings of the underworld boss Rex. The encounter is thus also the beginning of the game with fire.

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Foolhardy Stories

Holding up a mirror image to society is a recurring motif in literary history. What reached a high point in the Middle Ages with Dante’s Divine Comedy continued all the way to Honoré de Balzac, who drew a picture of the mores of high French society around 1830 with his Mad Tales.

Twin brothers Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi, born in Italy, raised in Paris, only to emigrate to Hollywood in 1994 to work for Disney Studio, Pixar and Sony, now took on three of Balzac’s stories in a very lighthearted comic album. Kept in monochrome, they lead the reader:inside in an entertaining way and a brisk drawing style through the world of the 1830s and skillfully take in their drawings the society, the church and morality on the shovel.

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